Monday, November 27, 2006

Loved in Texas

Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies was just selected to be on the 2007-2008 Lone Star Reading list, which I'm told by those in the literary know is a pretty cool thing. Compiled by the Texas Library Association, the books were selected in hopes of motivating young adults to become life-long readers and to participate in the community of readers in Texas. You can check out the details at

I haven't read most of the books on the list (okay, I haven't read any of them yet!), but coincidentally, I'm doing a book reading/signing this Sunday at Capitola Book Cafe with Ann Jaramillo. Her book, La Linea, another Lone Star honoree, is right by my bed for tonight's reading.

If you're looking for a meaningful holiday gift for a 5th-9th grader, this is a good shopping list. I'm including the entire list here.

Lone Star Reading List 2007 - 2008
1. Buckley-Archer, Linda. Gideon The Cutpurse: Being the First Part of the Gideon Trilogy. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 2006.
In 1763 pickpocket Gideon Seymour is hiding from Tar Man when Peter and Kate, two timetraveling children from the 21st century, fall from the sky and into his life.
2. Bunting, Eve. The Lambkins. Joanna Cotler. 2005.
After being kidnapped by the lonely widow of a brilliant geneticist, Kyle finds himself shrunk to
doll-size and living with three other children in a dollhouse from which there seems to be no
3. Cabot, Meg. Avalon High. Harper Collins Publishers. 2006.
Having moved to Annapolis, Maryland, with her medievalist parents, high school junior Ellie
enrolls at Avalon High School where several students may or may not be reincarnations of King
Arthur and his court.
4. Carter, Ally. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You. Hyperion. 2006.
As a sophomore at a secret spy school and the daughter of a former CIA operative, Cammie is
sheltered from "normal teenage life" until she meets a local boy while on a class surveillance
5. Chima, Cinda Williams. Warrior Heir. Hyperion Books for Children. 2006.
After learning about his magical ancestry and his own warrior powers, sixteen-year-old Jack
embarks on a training program to fight enemy wizards
6. Enthoven, Sam. Black Tattoo. Razorbill. 2006.
A sprawling fantasy epic set in modern day London, about a fourteen-year old boy, Charlie, who
thinks he's been given superpowers, but in fact has been possessed by a demon. The adventure
brings Charlie--as well as his friend, Jack, and Esme, the one girl raised to stop the demon--from the streets of London into Hell itself, as they prepare for a battle with ultimate stakes.
7. Han, Jenny. Shug. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2006.
A twelve-year-old girl learns about friendship, first loves, and self-worth in a small town in the
8. Harkrader, Lisa. Airball: My Life in Briefs. Roaring Brook Press. 2005.
Uncoordinated Kansas seventh-grader Kirby Nickel braves his coach's ire and becomes captain of the basketball team in order to help him prove that NBA star Brett McGrew is the father he has never known.
9. Jaramillo, Ann. La Linea. Roaring Brook Press. 2006.
When fifteen-year-old Miguel's time finally comes to leave his poor Mexican village, cross the
border illegally, and join his parents in California, his younger sister's determination to join him
soon imperils them both.
10. Korman, Gordon. Born to Rock. Hyperion Books for Children. 2006.
High school senior Leo Caraway, a conservative Republican, learns that his biological father is a
punk rock legend.
11. Lisle, Janet Taylor. Black Duck. Sleuth/Philomel. 2006.
Years afterwards, Ruben Hart tells the story of how, in 1929 Newport, Rhode Island, his family
and his best friend's family were caught up in the violent competition among groups trying to
control the local rum-smuggling trade.
12. Lupica, Mike. Heat. Philomel Books. 2006.
Pitching prodigy Michael Arroyo is on the run from social services after being banned from
playing Little League baseball because rival coaches doubt he is only twelve years old and he has no parents to offer them proof.
13. Mass, Wendy. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Little, Brown & Company. 2006.
Everything changes when the box arrives. Jeremy's father, who died five years ago, left behind a box for Jeremy to open on his 13th birthday. According to the writing on the box, it holds the
meaning of life! The problem is, the keys are missing, and the box is made so that only the keys
will open it without destroying what's inside.
14. McKernan, Victoria. Shackleton’s Stowaway. Random House. 2005.
A fictionalized account of the adventures of eighteen-year-old Perce Blackborow, who stowed
away for the 1914 Shackleton Antarctic expedition and, after their ship Endurance was crushed by ice, endured many hardships, including the loss of the toes of his left foot to frostbite, during the nearly two-year return journey across sea and ice.
15. Meehl, Brian. Out of Patience. Delacorte. 2006.
Twelve-year-old Jake Waters cannot wait to escape the small town of Patience, Kansas, until the arrival of a cursed toilet plunger causes him to reevaluate his feelings toward his family and its history.
16. Murdock, Catherine Gilbert. Dairy Queen: A Novel. Houghton Mifflin. 2006.
After spending her summer running the family farm and training the quarterback for her school's rival football team, sixteen-year-old D.J. decides to go out for the sport herself, not anticipating the reactions of those around her.
17. Papademetriou, Lisa. The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey. Razorbill. 2006.
Two mismatched teenage girls must find their way back home to New Jersey after being zapped into the pages of a fantasy novel.
18. Sonnenblick, Jordan. Notes from the Midnight Driver. Scholastic Press. 2006
16-year-old Alex decides to get even. His parents are separated, his father is dating his former
third-grade teacher, and being 16 isn't easy, especially when it comes to girls. Instead of revenge though, Alex ends up in trouble with the law and is ordered to do community service at a senior center where he is assigned to Solomon Lewis, a "difficult" senior with a lot of gusto, advice for Alex, and a puzzling (yet colorful) Yiddish vocabulary. Eventually, the pair learn to deal with their past and each other in ways that are humorous, entertaining, and life changing.
19. Van Draanen, Wendelin. Runaway. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2006.
After running away from her fifth foster home, Holly, a twelve-year-old orphan, travels across the country, keeping a journal of her experiences and struggle to survive.
20. Wolfson, Jill. Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies. Henry Holt. 2006.
Whitney has been in so many foster homes that she can give a complete rundown on the most
common varieties of foster parents—from the look-on-the-bright-side types to those unfortunate examples of pure evil. But one thing she doesn’t know much about is trees. This means heading for Foster Home #12 (which is all the way at the top of the map of California, where there looks to be nothing but trees) has Whitney feeling a little nervous. She is pretty sure that the middle of nowhere is going to be just one more place where a hyper, loud-mouthed kid who is messy and small for her age won’t be welcome for long.

Great Reviews for Home

Some great new reviews are coming in for Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies:

From Kirkus -- "Eleven-year-old Whitney, aka Termite, arrives at her 12th foster home, in remote Forest Glen, prepared for the worst. Termite soon discovers that foster children are a cottage industry in this logging town where layoffs have meant psychological as well as economic depression for the loggers. Termite might be the loudest of the band of fosters at Forest Glen Elementary, but she is by no means the most eccentric. From this ragtag band, Termite fashions a cohesive mutual support group and, with her foster brother as an unlikely ally, goes head to head with the newly re-hired loggers who want to cut down an aged redwood lovingly known as Big Momma. A sweet, spirited tale told with warmth and humor about a determined misfit who finds a home at last in a family and a community."

From VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) -- Sixth grader Whitney is heading out to her twelfth foster home-this time in the middle of nowhere. Born with a heart condition and ADHD, she knows that she is a handful and that this one will end up to be just one more place where other people belong. She just wishes that stupid feeling would not slip in at the worst possible moment-the one that makes her hope that this family will be the one "down on their knees, praying night and day about having a superfunny, hyper, loudmouthed, messy, small-for-her-age foster kid." Needing to squash that idea down before it gets out of hand, Whitney makes sure that she gets noticed on her own terms before anyone gets any ideas about who she is or what she needs. What she does not count on is a school where half the students are fosters in a broken-down town torn between the logging industry and the environmentalists. Finding a hidden nature girl under her city background, Whitney makes a stand for her beliefs and rallies the support of some surprising allies along the way. Written with humor and sensitivity, this book from the author of a 2005 Perfect Ten novel, What I Call Life (Henry Holt, 2005/VOYA December 2005), tackles issues from fitting in with family and friends to getting through school to making a difference in the community. There is no preaching here, just honest to goodness situational humor perfect for starting a discussion on environmental topics. It might just encourage youth to find ways to stand out while fitting in. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Jill's Daily Happenings-- NEW BLOG

I've created a new blog with more personal ramblings. It's mostly for family, friends and my obsessive need to record my life, but you are most welcome to take a look if you think you care about the status of my tomato garden and surf conditions in Santa Cruz.
A warning to adults: You might not think some of the content is okay for your kids. For example, I might discuss an R-rated movie I recently saw.
A warning to kids: You'll probably be bored to tears unless you think heirloom tomatoes are fascinating.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Want Jill to Visit Your School? Here's how!

I love speaking to students. My presentations run anywhere from 30 minutes on up, depending on the age, size of group and purpose of my visit. I’m very flexible on tailoring something to fit your needs and budget.

For assembly and classroom visits, I introduce students to the reality of foster care and adoption. Without glossing over the difficulties, I show the strengths and inner-resources of children who do not live with their families of origin. Some topics:
• Why some children can’t live with their families
• The historical perspective, including the orphan train movement
• Life in a contemporary foster or group home.
My goal is for students to understand that foster children are everywhere, and while they have unique experiences, they are, at heart, kids with a full range of hopes, dreams, humor and emotions.

I also showcase other themes in my novels, such as
* The fun and power of knitting (What I Call Life).
* The ecology of the redwood forest (Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies).
I come to the school armed with my own knitting for students to model and perhaps even some banana slugs.

I enjoy sharing my own process of writing – where stories come from, the role of imagination, how I draw on my own childhood and my long career as a journalist. My hope is to inspire young authors to believe in themselves, to find their own voice and to see the wealth of stories in their own seemingly ordinary experiences.

In addition to reading from my books, I leave plenty of time for a lively and always surprising question and answer period.

In classroom visits, I can conduct writing workshops geared for 4th grade and up. The encounters are very interactive as I lead students through the literary process, from idea to research to writing and the need for rewriting.
Through a lively series of guided exercises, the students and I create characters and then put those characters into plots drawn from their imaginations. Because we work in a group setting, students also get to understand and respect how their fellow students tackle the creative process.

Additional info:
· For many years, I have taught in writing workshops for at-risk students at juvenile hall.
· At each school visit, I donate one of my own books to your school library.
· I provide a discount for my visit if book sales are arranged and promoted in advance, and time is set aside for signing on the day of my appearance. \

Contact me at

Friday, September 01, 2006

First review of Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies

I don't think I could be more delighted with my first review of my middle-reader novel due out next month. It's from the blog of a well-respected New York City librarian.
Here's the review in its entirety:

Review of the Day: Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies
One technique your average children’s book reader can use when they want to fill space in a review is to compare the book at hand to already well-known titles. I do this all the time, partly because it’s a space filler and partly because it gives you a feel for the book as a whole. Yet when it came to Jill Wolfson’s newest title for the young ‘uns, “Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies”, I found myself wanting to say something like this: The only way I can describe it is to say that it’s basically “The Great Gilly Hopkins” meets “Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key” with an eco-message that “Hoot” fans will enjoy... and there’s a dog that seems straight out of “Surviving the Applewhites”. There. Have I cleared anything up for you? No? Well then buckle up and hold tight, kiddies. This book was one of the most enjoyable titles you’ll find this year, and it’s all about foster kids and unemployment. No lie!Call her Whitney. No, wait, call her Termite. You might as well. After all, she knows she's a bit on the shrimpy side, and she likes to embrace her nicknames right off the top. As of this moment in time Termite has lived in twelve foster homes and she knows the lay of the land. Now her social worker has taken Termite and her pet (a pillbug by the name of Ike Eisenhower the Sixth... no relation to the president) to Forest Glen, California. Emphasis on the forest. Once there she finds a town in trouble. Due to the discovery of a rare owl, the logging industry in Forest Glen has shut down, leaving the residents destitute and in need of cash by any means. So the town came up with an idea. Why not adopt a whole mess of foster kids and make money that way until something better comes along? Now Termite’s going to school with a bunch of kids who’ve been through what she’s been through and out of the blue she’s joined the school’s ecology club. But when the logging industry starts to come to life again, Termite finds herself defending something she loves deep in the heart of the forest. And she’ll risk everything to keep it safe.When an author creates a wholly new character, it’s important that they flesh out that person to the extent that you truly believe in them. Termite is a spot-on example of how to do this. Every detail about her comes to vibrant manic life under Wolfson’s pen. Her constant chewing and spitting of sunflower seeds. Her tiny stature, fear of all dogs, and upfront supposedly fearless nature. I kept picturing her as a tiny version of “House”, from the television show of the same name. I couldn’t help it! She says what she thinks, is incredibly observant, and definitely ADD. Part of her charm is that you never really feel sorry for her. It’s such a relief to believe in a character that can take care of herself. Termite doesn’t care what she wears or what she looks like. When she sees the popular girls in school she notes that, “It would take me about six more lifetimes to be that glossy”. And from the moment you hear that she can climb and then finds herself in a forest of tall tall trees, you know something’s gonna go down before the end of the book.Of course one of the things I adored about this title was Wolfson’s sense of nuance. This is not an all-environmentalists-are-good-and-loggers-are-bad book. Nor is this an all-loggers-are-bad-and-environmentalists-are-good book. This story takes all sides into account. As Termite’s teacher Mr. Cator points out, there were a lot of factors other than the environmentalists that brought the logging industry to a halt. “Improved technology, cheaper timber from foreign countries, greedy corporations”, for a start. Environmentalists are just the easiest scapegoats on hand. It’s remarkable to see what a town without industry can resemble. Wolfson gets the bitterness and hopelessness right, while also filling this book to brimming with honest humor of the laugh-out-loud variety. Or, in Termite’s words, it's a, “wacky-monkey, cackling-chicken, mad-scientist, sputtering-car-starting, snorting-through-the-nose, moth-wide-open-cawing-crow” laugh. Wolfson would do well to teach a course someday on how to write comedic passages. Honestly, it’s not easy but she makes it appear effortless. When Termite discovers the words vomica, vomit, vomitive, vomitory, vomitorium, vomiturition, and vomitus in the dictionary, she comments that, “Page 1,355 has got to be the best page of the dictionary ever. I recommend it”. The descriptions are pretty swell too. Termite’s best female friend at school, Honeysuckle, suffers from something Termite calls, “IVPS, Imaginary Vice Principal Syndrome. She felt eyes on her all the time, reading to scold her for something”. Oh, and this is completely personal, but she puts in a “Get Smart” joke that only adults will get on page 33 that I think is just fabulous. Well done, there!Not every detail in this book was ideal, of course. Termite has a habit of misunderstanding words, possibly purposely, that will either strike readers as amusing or a joke that pretty much played itself out the first time she said “decidingus” instead of “deciduous”. On the other hand, it does lead to her character saying things like, “The Termite’s powers of perversion must not be disrespected”. I mean, that’s pretty funny. I thought it was a little overdone, but it’s easy enough to ignore if you’re not a fan. With the sheer number of foster kid children’s books out this year, it’s nice to find one that acknowledges both the bitterness a kid can feel when shuttled from place to place, as well as the humor found in every situation. Heck, I haven’t even told you about the banana slugs or Termite’s great foster father, or half the funny stuff in this book. For an evenhanded blend of good writing and hilarity, “Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies” is a must-read title. Good good stuff.On shelves October 3rd